The Boston Celtics have clinched a spot in the NBA playoffs for an eighth-straight season, and they’ll be on the hunt again for an elusive 18th championship. However, to get back to the NBA Finals, the Celtics will have to go through the gauntlet that is the Eastern Conference.
After Tuesday night’s embarrassing 130-111 loss to the Washington Wizards, home-court advantage throughout the playoffs is likely out of reach for the C’s. If they continue to fall the lowest they could possibly go is the fourth seed, yet that would take some abysmal play and bad luck.
Celts are 7-11 this season when they give up 120+ points
Tonight was just the 2nd time all season the Celts gave up at least 130 in regulation (OKC loss, 150)
— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) March 29, 2023
Most likely, the Celtics will stay where they are in second place in the East. While this isn’t a bad spot to be in, it could still lead to some tough Celtics playoff matchups. Perhaps the most probable Boston playoff scenario would see them matching up with an old rival in the first round.
No. 2 Celtics vs. No. 7 Heat
If they hold the first or second seed, Boston would face off against a team coming straight from the NBA Play-In Tournament. And since the C’s have a slim shot at the top spot in the East, they’ll probably play the seventh seed rather than the lowest eighth seed.
Currently, the Miami Heat are in seventh, a familiar foe that the Celtics have faced twice in the last three postseasons. The Heat got the best of the Celtics in the 2020 NBA Bubble, however, Boston exacted revenge last season when they bested Miami in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
For Miami, the 2022-23 season has been rough by their high standards. At 40-36, they seem to be limping into the playoffs, as they are dead last in points per game in the NBA. Plus, over their last 10 games, they’re a perfect mediocre 5-5.
With that being said, Miami is still a dangerous team that could give Boston trouble. They’re led by six-time All-Star Jimmy Butler who has a habit of torching the C’s. He even hit this tough jumper in overtime earlier this season to beat the Green Team in Beantown:
Jimmy Butler with ANOTHER clutch bucket to seal it for the Heat in OT pic.twitter.com/ChNPpxUKoj
— NBA (@NBA) December 3, 2022
Overall, the Heat and the Celtics split the season series 2-2 despite their different trajectories. Although Miami has a lesser offense, its defensive efficiency is top-1o in the league and could certainly give Boston problems.
At full strength in a playoff series, the Celtics could likely dispose of the Heat, yet it wouldn’t be easy. Center Bam Adebayo is a difficult matchup for Boston, as the two-time All-Star has the size and skill to take on most of the Celtics’ bigs. The last time the two Eastern Conference rivals met, Adebayo dropped 30 points in a 98-95 win.
The rest of the Heat’s roster most notably features sharp-shooter Tyler Herro, point guard Gabe Vincent, and newly-acquired big Kevin Love. This Miami lineup hasn’t gelled together super well, but they do all have playoff experience and are hungry for revenge against the C’s.
Due to the Heat’s tenacity and talented defense, it wouldn’t be shocking if they took the Celtics to six or seven games. Having a lengthy first round can be tiring for any team, and all the effort Boston exerted to take out Milwaukee and Miami (series that both went to seven games) in last year’s playoffs left them fatigued for the NBA Finals.
Getting an easy four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs is a huge advantage, and a team like the Heat would probably prevent that from happening. Even NBA pundit and Celtics fan Bill Simmons spoke about how scary a playoff matchup would be with Miami:
“There’s Jimmy and Spo and Bam and Riley lurking every April like Michael F*cking Myers. You know how the movie ends, and you’ll probably survive, but you’ll also probably be standing in your burning house covered in blood. Any Jimmy Butler team scares the sh!t out of me.”
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) March 24, 2023
The Celtics have the talent on both ends of the floor to cool down the Heat, it’s just a matter of how much energy Miami would take out of them in the process. Regardless of who the C’s face, the 2023 NBA playoffs begin in just over two weeks.
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